What exactly is disruptive technology? It’s a phrase that’s tossed around quite a bit among entrepreneurs, VCs and blogs, but it’s not well defined. Philosophically, I am at a loss as to what to make of it.
My vice with this is no one will know for sure how disruptive their innovations will become. When they created the iPod or the iPhone, did anyone really believe they would be as revolutionary as they are today?
Disruptive technology is not something that spreads fast. In fact, look how many years and dollars Apple has invested to get up to this point of becoming mainstream. Would they have predicted this from the boardroom years before? I doubt it. Look at everything that grew from a garage to mainstream today — it wasn’t fast nor was it easy.
I believe all entrepreneurs at-large aim to create “disruptive” technologies that make a meaningful contribution to their users’ lives.
In some degree, nearly every entrepreneurial innovation is disruptive. However, the real problem is translating the disruptiveness to something that is a contribution to a user’s experience. Draped over that challenge is the marketing and branding to make it easily understood.
It was with clever branding and flawless execution, Apple’s iPod and iPhone had survived this epic feat. It wasn’t boasting the best or cutting edge features. They simply solved a problem that people have experienced with their Discmans and bulky Smartphones. Sometimes, it’s not about manufacturing a need, but rising to it and delivering. God only knows how much money it cost in R&D to do this on both devices.
To be disruptive, you can’t just invent one product or service. You have to facilitate a community … make that … an ecosystem where users are serviced by others who will champion your brand. Apple nailed this with iTunes and the App Store. And they treated their partners well – a simple 70/30 rev share so they take their piece of the pie, but not too big of a piece. And today we have over 350,000 apps in the App Store and 14 million songs in iTunes.
If that’s not disruption, I’m not sure what is.
My only advice from this drivel is this:
Create not just the next big app, service or product — instead create an ecosystem. Take your fair share, but give back to your ambassadors so it sustains itself.
Image credit: x-ray delta one